Will They Strike: Rumors Addressed

APSCUF (Association of Pennsylvania State College and University faculties), the union of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania professors, may potentially go on strike.

That is a rumor that has been floating around campus for the past couple of weeks. Student’s weren’t really sure if it was true or not until recently when University professors started to vocalize their opinions on the issue.

Associate Professor of chemistry and active APSCUF member, Eric Hawrelak, addressed the rumor.

“At the present time there is no ‘strike,’” he said.  “APSCUF has started the process of preparing for a potential strike in the future.” He went on to explain the process of going on strike:

  • A strike authorization vote by APSCUF legislative assembly, which is a part of the organizational governance.
  • A vote for the strike by all 14 PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) schools and all APSCUF members.
  • Then APSCUF’s negotiations committee sets and calls the strike.

Right now, APSCUF has only completed the first step.

“The potential strike is really about fairness,” Hawrelak stated. APSCUF is the only union without a current contract, and hasn’t had one since June 2011. He went on to say:

  • “APSCUF is the only union that is being asked to reduce one of its group’s salaries (adjunct faculty are facing a proposed 35 percent cut in pay).
  • APSCUF is also being asked to completely overhaul its health benefits, costing its members thousands of dollars.
  • They are being asked to hurt its current and future retirees in terms of their health care benefits.
  • It also took PASSHE over 15 months to put in place the basic pay scale that the other unions received over four years.
  • Until just recently APSCUF was being offered zero percent each year of four for the pay scale.

Hawrelak mentioned that when APSCUF talks about fewer professors on campus, there are two meanings.

“First, the total number of professors on campus has decreased over the last few years.  When faculty members retire,  they are often not replaced.  The best way for a department to compensate for the loss of the compliment is to either increase class size on the remaining professors in the department or offer [fewer] sections of their courses.

Second, fewer professors means fewer tenure track professors and more temporary professors. Tenure-track professors serve on committees and perform important advising roles for the students. As the number of tenure-track faculty goes down, it is harder for students to plan out their course schedules and get the one-on-one interaction with faculty for which so many came to Bloomsburg.”

Hawrelak added that students should get their questions answered.

“They should stay informed. Like APSCUF on Facebook, [and] check out the Pennsylvania Students Voice website. This is not about salary like the Chancellor’s office is trying to make it out to be.  This is about protecting our educational system and treating our temporary faculty and retirees fairly.  Before the students condemn the ‘greedy’ professors, they should think about that professor that helped them outside the classroom, outside of regularly scheduled office hours, or inspired them to work harder and perform better.”

PASSHE is trying to work with APSCUF to form an agreement. Kenn Marshall, media relations manager for PASSHE, stated that there are three main areas where there is a difference in opinion: Healthcare, online courses, and in-temporary faculty. He explained each of these differences in detail:

  • Healthcare: APSCUF wants more benefits, such as a free recreation center membership. That would increase the cost of the healthcare plan. Six out of seven unions have agreed to the current benefits, APSCUF isn’t one of them.
  • Online Courses: A plan for online classes was added to the school systems in 1999. The professors that created them received extra pay for creating the class and for each student that enrolled in them. PASSHE feels that this is no longer necessary because of the amount of online classes being offered, but APSCUF would like to keep them going with pay.
  • In-temporary Faculty: Temporary faculty members and regular faculty members are currently receiving the same pay. PASSHE would like to reduce the temporary faculty salary. Since regular faculty are on the expired contract, there has been no increase in salary.

PASSHE is currently working on a negotiation for a new contract. There will be a meeting held on Nov. 2, and Nov. 9 for an agreement. The vote for the strike will happen sometime in mid-November.

Marshall has never seen a strike in the 15 years that he has been working with PASSHE. He said that they have tried in 1999, 2003, and 2007 for strikes, and they never went through.

The most daunting thing for students with this potential strike is the loss of education and late graduation. Senior Julia Layman is worried about not graduating on time. “The unknown, not knowing how to plan if this happens, is what’s scary.”

Marshall assures that even if there is a strike, the state schools have a plan. Faculty can still teach, and students are still expected to go to class and get their rightful education.

Marshall lastly added that students shouldn’t be worried. “Student’s should continue to concentrate on their classes. We’ve always been able to resolve these issues in the past, and we hope we can do that again. Try to continue the semester as normally as you can, [don’t let this be] a distraction.”

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